Between the 18th and 20th of January I attended the Austrian Ball der Pharmacie and accompanying AFÖP (Austrian Pharmaceutical Students Association) side programme, with 2 of the other BPSA 18/19 Executive.
The ball is an annual event, hosted in the Hofburg Palace in Vienna (below), for anyone and everyone involved in Austrian Pharmacy, including their Minister for Health, and AFÖP invite any EPSA (European Pharmaceutical Students Association) members to attend their social programme and the ball itself. This year included students from Austria, Germany, Poland, Slovenia, The Netherlands, Belgium, and the UK as well as other countries.
We arrived, albeit via a pretty convoluted route including getting lost in Bratislava, in Vienna in the very early hours of Friday 18th, and settled into our hostel on the Nachtsmarkt for the night.
It was a fairly early start for the beginning of the sightseeing tour, by 2 of the AFÖP team, and they took us to see a number of attractions, including the impressive St Stephen’s Cathedral, the University of Vienna, and the area around Hofburg, before a quick stop in a traditional cafe/restaurant for the obligatory coffee and slice of sachertorte!
The evening events began with a traditional Austrian meal of Wienerschnitzel (a Viennese speciality), and potato salad, along with some local beer. This set us up nicely for ice skating in front of the amazing city hall. None of us are exactly Torvill and Dean, but after a quick lesson from some European colleagues I started to get the hang of it, and somehow didn’t fall over! We even made the EPSA Instagram story!
Then, we went to a nightclub in Vienna. It was a great chance to relax and meet loads of new people from EPSA and AFÖP, and let off some steam on the dancefloor. We did pretty well to last until 4 am after not much sleep, but the night was far from over when we left!
First up on Saturday morning was a ballroom dancing lesson to prepare us for the ball that evening. We spent most of the time learning, as you’d expect, the Viennese Waltz but also ventured into a swing dancing towards the end. Waltzing seems to come naturally to the Austrians, but it was a bit more challenging for us, don’t think we’ll be on Strictly Come Dancing anytime soon!
Then after a bit of an adventure around Vienna it was time for the ball! There’s a strict dress code of bow ties and suits for the men, and floor length dresses for the ladies, so it was a great chance to break out the formal wear that hadn’t been seen since the BPSA ball in Keele last April.
Arriving was like stepping into a James Bond film, hundreds of people in tail-suits and ball gowns, a live orchestra, and professional dancers to keep the guests entertained. We took the chance to get a few photos, and use our vouchers for a free snack and drink, before heading to the ballroom. We had a quick go at using the dancing lessons from the morning, but had nothing on the Austrians packing out the floor so quickly called it a day to avoid any accidents or injuries. Anyone who wants to see some photos of this should check out the facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/BallderPharmacie/) or website (www.pharmacieball.at), it’s really spectacular!
The highlight of the night is the Midnight Show, which this year had an acrobat performing on an aerial silk suspended from the ceiling. This was then followed by the traditional ‘Quadrille’, think a more formal, more complicated ‘Hokey Cokey’ in a language you don’t understand, and you’ll start to get the picture! This was a good opportunity to dance with some of our European friends, especially since the Austrians were the only ones who could understand the instructions!
The rest of the night consisted of exploring the different rooms in the venue, including swing, salsa, tango and jazz floors, as well as bars and food stalls. I spent time with some of the EPSA Executive team, talking about their events, campaigns and the differences between European and UK pharmacy. They also wanted some clarification on Brexit, but don’t we all! After some more waltzing with the other European students, and a few more photos (below) our time at the ball started to run out and it was 4am before we knew it.
As with the previous night, apparently 4am was not late enough, so we ended up in another club until 7am, at which point they decided to go straight for breakfast. Checkout was at 10am so we only managed an hour’s sleep before travelling home, but well worth it for the true European experience!
This was a great experience, unlike anything I’ve ever done or likely will do! And the best thing is that it’s open to any UK student who is a BPSA/EPSA member, and only costs €40 (not bad for dancing in a palace!). It’s also a more relaxed and cheap way to start to get involved with the EPSA scene; I’ve never done a proper event before but I now have European friends, and feel confident to do a lot more European events!
The ball is held every January, so if you’re interested in the next one, give AFÖP a like or follow, and look out for registration around December 2019!
This article was written by:
Northern Area Coordinator 18/19